Textual Analysis1

Everything about Textual Analysis and its approaches

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Table of Contents

Before starting with what Textual Analysis is, let’s first start with understanding what “Text” actually means. We use the word text very often in our lives when it comes to sending messages on social media or when we see something written somewhere we process it as a “text”. But it would be safe to say that the meaning behind the word text actually run deeper than most of us ever thought.

Text, when we talk in academic terms, is basically anything that presents meaning to someone who is studying it. So when we say text, we can only think about newspapers, books, billboards, magazines and even our messages on the phone. But in reality, text can also include movies, songs, videos, painting, maps, a view, animations and literally everything that you can see with your very own eyes. That’s true! As long as we are looking at something, studying it, processing it in our brains, and deriving conclusions out of it, we can go ahead to call all those things a TEXT.

What is Textual Analysis?

This is where Textual Analysis comes into the picture. Textual Analysis is a term used to study and understand texts. It includes exploring the languages, symbols, patterns, pictures in the text. 

Textual Analysis helps us understand and have a detailed idea about how people communicate their ideologies and thoughts and experiences through texts. Most of the time, texts such as a video interview, a newspaper article, or a voice message tells a lot about how a certain topic is being influenced by a certain group of people.

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Example: A politician is giving a speech on television. 

Textual Analysis will help understand the way he is preaching his historical, cultural, social, political points of view and the people who are listening to him may have a similar way of perceptions and this can really come in handy with the analyst when he is exploring a big theory.

What are the approaches of Textual Analysis?

Rhetorical Criticism:

It is a systematic study to describe, analyze, interpret and evaluate the messages that are hidden in the texts. The process of rhetorical criticism comprises of five steps:

  • Purpose of the message
  • The understanding of the historical, cultural and social context in the message.
  • Using it to evaluate society. 
  • Can build a theory and its applications. 
  • Teaching people how effective persuasion works.

Content Analysis:

Is used to identify the messages occurring in the texts and enumerating them. It is generally not preferred by researchers as they work on the data that already exists rather than generating new data. The content analysis makes it hard due to the practice of coding the data and labelling them, which in turn includes training the researchers for the same. 

  • Qualitative content analysis- focuses on the actual meaning embedded in the message rather than the number of times the message has occurred. 
  • Quantitative content analysis- a step-by-step procedure where the research questions are answered in a proper manner.

Interaction Analysis:

It includes studies right from linguistic features like words and sentence formation to non-verbal factors like hand gestures and eye contact, topics that people discuss, the purpose of specific actions and speeches. Interaction analysis is viewed as a much more complex process that includes massive information on the topic and a strong ability to coordinate on the part of the researcher. It takes for a researcher to arrange for group meetings and observe the functional messages that are being exchanged during the discussion and the conversants’ actions. 

Performance Studies:

Focuses on the richness of the text and its aesthetics while. A researcher puts up a performance using the texts to act out how it affects a conversation.

  • Select: identify a text to examine.
  • Play: try on different vocal and body language.
  • Testing: conclude ways of understanding.
  • Choosing: select a valid interpretation.
  • Repeating: refine the chosen interpretation.
  • Presenting: report of what has been discovered.

Explore all the survey question types possible on Voxco

Explore all the survey question types possible on Voxco

How and where is Textual Analysis helpful?

With the knowledge of all approaches, we can evaluate our text with Textual Analysis. Let’s take a look at how textual analysis helps us to understand texts from different fields.

Textual analysis in Cultural and Media Studies:

In these fields, researchers consider music, videos, audio, images as text and use them for their evaluation. Hence researchers try to dig up the social and cultural context with these texts by evaluating the choice of words, location of the text, design, audience, etc. Textual Analysis here, therefore, is usually qualitative.

Textual Analysis is Social Sciences:

As the name suggests, it is about drawing social relations and understandings by analyzing texts in the form of interview videos, etc. It takes a more quantitative approach where the researcher might look at how many times a certain word or a phrase is repeated in the text.

Textual Analysis in Literary Studies:

This includes working on texts in the form of poems, novels, theatre, etc. and the researcher focuses on the narratives, rhymes, metaphors that are being used in order to draw out meanings from them. This application of textual analysis mostly focuses on unintended connections between the texts.

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Hindol Basu 
GM, Voxco Intelligence

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